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March 2005

High Spirits

Bavaria's Going Frisky for Whisky!

Bonny Scotland may be a long way from Bavaria—but in spirit the two have a great deal in common. Literally. For as well as their mountains, lakes and fondness for traditional dress, both are the home of that golden nectar, whisky. Get away, I hear you say! Bavarians may be renowned as beer drinkers, they may knock back more wine per capita than anywhere else in Germany and they may have a fair few schnapps distilleries. But whisky?

Prepare to be surprised. Just outside Munich, in the small town of Schliersee, is one of only a handful of malt whisky distilleries in Germany. And though its primary business may come from its schnapps-making activities, whisky is nevertheless giving the traditional products a run for their money. To such an extent, in fact, that the company is currently building a new distillery, due to open next year, which will be devoted entirely to whisky production.

So how did the venture start? Just like a good malt, it was an idea that has matured over several years. “I was touring through Scotland in 1994,” says Florian Stetter, Managing Director of Schliersee’s Lantenhammer Schnapps Distillery, “and it suddenly struck me that, although the place was very similar to Bavaria, what we were lacking was whisky. I couldn’t think of a reason why it shouldn’t work in Germany, too.”

Several years and much experimentation later, all entirely under his own steam and without help from Scottish counterparts, Stetter finally unveiled the finished product in 1999. For the uninitiated, it looks and sounds like a Scottish classic. But Slyrs is a Bavarian product, through and through. “Schliersee was actually founded by Celtic monks back in the eighth century,” said Stetter. “Slyrs is simply the old Celtic name for the town.” The logo, meanwhile, features the mountains and a Bavarian mountain goat. Tastewise, Stetter makes no claim to imitate the classic Scotch malt. “Although we use the same ingredients—malted barley and local spring water, we wanted to create our own, unique version,” he explains. “As such, instead of smoking it over peat, we use beech, and instead of big old bourbon barrels, which are often preferred by Scottish distilleries, we use smaller, newer ones, which gives Slyrs less of a smokiness and more of a light, fine, vanilla touch.” Another major difference between the two is the maturing time. Whereas in Scotland most single malts are left to rest for at least 10 to 12 years, Slyrs is ready for drinking after three, although one-third of each year’s batch is set aside and aged for longer.

Despite some initial skepticism from the market, Slyrs, which is priced at € 35 a bottle, did not take long in proving itself. “The first batch of 1,600 bottles sold like hot cakes,” says Stetter. “And ever since, we’ve been sold out every year, with people clammering to get their names on a waiting list for the next lot.” Aside from private sales direct from the distillery, Slyrs is also sold to a number of specialist dealers across Germany, including Käfer in Munich. A few cases have also been shipped to Denmark and Dubai. And, by all accounts, it’s even gone down well with some of the world’s leading whisky connoisseurs. “We are listed in some whisky books,” says Stetter. “And most experts really seem to like it—the key is to view it as a different product from a Scottish malt and as a whisky in its own right.” Indeed, Michael Jackson, one of the world’s number one whisky buffs, describes Slyrs as a “creamy, sweet drink, with a delicate perfume-spicy dryness and warmth in the finish.” On his universal scoring guide, it achieves a rating of 68 out of 100, classing it an “enjoyable but unexceptional malt”—which, considering its infancy, is not bad going.

So what’s the best way to go about trying this new Bavarian delicacy? According to Stetter, anyone who wants to purchase a bottle should get in touch with the distillery and put their name on the waiting list right away. The next batch is due out in May, so there’s no time to lose. The Lantenhammer Distillery can be contacted at Tel. (08026) 924 80 or Fax (08026) 92 48 10, or see the Website at Having said that, I do know of people who have been on the list for four years and who are still thirstily waiting. If you’d rather try before you buy, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof is known to stock Slyrs in its bar, assuming you haven’t been beaten to it, of course! And, should all else fail, try consoling yourself with a bottle of Lantenhammer’s finest raspberry schnapps. This stuff is so aromatic and juicy that one whiff alone will pack enough of a punch to get you yodeling in glee! Och aye, laddies! <<<

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